• Top Ten Trends in Biblical Counseling from 2000-2009, Part 2

    Posted on December 29th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Top Ten Trends in Biblical Counseling from 2000-2009

    Part 2: Trends 5-1

    Note: For Part 1 and trends 10-6, please visit here.

    It’s hard to believe that the first decade of the 21st century has come and gone.

    As the decade ends, I’ve been pondering the top ten positive trends over the past ten years in biblical counseling.

    It’s exciting to reflect on what God is doing as He empowers His Church.

    Enjoy trends five-to-one (in reverse order to heighten the anticipation!). And please join the conversation and let me know what your selections would be.

    5. Culturally-Informed Approaches

    There was also a time when “modern biblical counseling” consisted of “a bunch of white guys.” Thankfully, the “movement” is maturing due to the contributions of a growing multiethnic group of women and men. Elyse Fitzpatrick, Lucy Ann Moll, and Susan Ellis are just three examples of women leading the way in biblical counseling. Pastor Deepak Reju of Nine Marks Ministries, Dr. Elias Moitinho, Pastor Dwayne Bond, and the Black African American Association of Christian Counselors (BAACC) are representatives of a multiethnic group of individuals and associations promoting biblical counseling. My own books, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, and Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith each seek to teach biblical counseling from a multicultural perspective. There’s also an encouraging movement of international biblical counseling with Wayne Vanderweir’s Overseas Instruction in Counseling being just one such examples.

    4. Comprehensive Models

    Once upon a time, biblical counseling could be labeled one-dimensional with a focus on combating the impact of the fall/sin on human nature. Today, biblical counseling comprehensively examines creation (understanding people from God’s original design), fall (diagnosing problems resulting from sin), and redemption (prescribing God’s solutions through our salvation and sanctification in Christ). Models also formerly tended to highlight the behavioral aspects of growth in grace. Today they emphasize our relational (spiritual, social, and self-aware), rational (images and beliefs), volitional (motivational and behavioral), emotional, and physical nature in a comprehensive manner. Eric Johnson’s Foundations for Soul Care, and my work Soul Physicians are just two examples of books written in the past ten years to offer comprehensive theological foundations for biblical counseling.

    3. Progressive Sanctification Focus

    Current models of biblical counseling have made great progress in teaching that the counseling process is simply a sub-set of the discipleship process, both of which God designs to assist us to grow in grace. The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) has spent the past decade equipping pastors and lay people to assist God’s people in the progressive sanctification process. The mission of the Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network (BCSFN) is to link biblical counseling and spiritual formation to develop theological models and methodological approaches leading to progressive sanctification.

    2. Sufficiency of Scripture Emphasis

    Rather than harp on what’s wrong with other models, over the past ten years there has been an increasing focus on the sufficiency, relevancy, profundity, and authority of God’s Word for Christian living. David Powlison’s Seeing with New Eyes and Speaking Truth in Love, Michael Emlet’s Cross Talk, and my Spiritual Friends all practice the sufficiency of Scripture by teaching why and how to saturate biblical counseling with scriptural explorations and spiritual conversations

    1. Christ-Centered Purpose

    Biblical counseling over the past ten years has re-committed itself to the primary purpose of glorifying Christ. It’s all about Him. For instance, the use of Scripture (sufficiency of Scripture) to assist one another to grow in grace (progressive sanctification) has as its final goal helping one another to exalt and enjoy Christ now and forever. Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Counsel from the Cross exemplifies this type of Gospel-centered biblical counseling.

    We can bring together these top ten trends of the past ten years to offer a working definition of biblical counseling.

    Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s inspired truth about people, problems, and solutions to human suffering (through the Christian soul care arts of sustaining and healing) and sin (through the Christian spiritual direction arts of reconciling and guiding) to empower people to exalt and enjoy God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40) by cultivating conformity to Christ and communion with Christ and the Body of Christ.

    Join the Conversation

    What top trends would you add to this list?

    What individuals, groups, and books would you add to trends 5-1?

    In 75 words or less, how would you define biblical counseling?

  • Top Ten Trends in Biblical Counseling from 2000-2009

    Posted on December 27th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Top Ten Trends in Biblical Counseling from 2000-2009

    Part 1: Trends 10-6

    Do you remember where you were when “Y2K” did not hit? That was the beginning of the decade that people don’t know what to call. Is it the zeros?

    People often like to label decades by “themes.” I’ve already heard some people call the past decade the “Selfish Decade.”

    While there’s certainly plenty of negatives to toss about, I’d like to consider some positives. Remember, “Aslan is still on the move!”

    Here are the first five of my top ten positive trends in biblical counseling over the past ten years (in reverse order, of course, to heighten anticipation!).

    10. Synergy Is Energy

    Instead of territory-protecting and camp-building, increasingly biblical counseling groups are choosing to work together and to learn from each other. For example, Jeremy Lelek and the Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) are to be commended for hosting a symposium that brought together leaders from Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries (FBCM), the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), the Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network (BCSFN), and the Society for Christian Psychology (SCP).

    9. Positive Perspective

    For too long, modern biblical counseling suffered under the stereotype of what it was against. Over the past decade a shift has taken place as we’ve focused more on what we’re for. For example, the BCSFN, which was launched this decade, included “being a positive voice for biblical counseling” in its vision statement. The SCP purposes to develop from the Scriptures and Church history a positive presentation of a psychology (understanding of the soul as designed by God) that is thoroughly Christian.

    8. New Gen Leadership

    We all ought to be grateful for the “founders” of the “modern” biblical counseling movement. I’m also grateful for a new generation of leaders in biblical counseling. Examples abound. I think of Pastor Rob Green at Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries and Faith Seminary, of Chris Boucher at Capital Bible Seminary, Brad Hambrick of Crossroads Counseling, and Garrett Higbee of Twelve Stones Ministries.

    7. Local Church Equipping

    There’s a growing movement to return biblical counseling and spiritual friendship to its rightful place—the local church. Pastors are being equipped to equip their people for one another ministry. Among many examples are the CCEF, the BCSFN, FBCM, the ABC, Rick Thomas of The Counseling Solutions Group, and my own RPM Ministries all have well-developed local church equipping models, conferences, seminars, and consulting ministries. And individual churches are increasingly becoming equipping centers, such as Faith Baptist under the leadership of Pastor Steve Viars, Harvest Bible Chapel under the leadership of Pastor James MacDonald and Dr. Garrett Higbee, and New Antioch Baptist Church’s “LEAD” ministry under the direction of Sister Ellen Barney (where she has trained over 500 women in spiritual friendship). These equipping ministries and churches understand that biblical counseling is a normal part of the one another ministry that God calls every believer to participate in.

    6. Compassionate Care

    There was a time when “modern biblical counseling” was stereotyped as “harsh confrontation.” Joyfully, that label is dissipating as biblical counselors embrace a biblical sufferology. Biblical counseling is addressing how to provide soul care through sustaining and healing for suffering. It is also addressing how to provide gentle, humble spiritual direction for sin and sanctification through reconciling and guiding. Paul Tautges’ Comfort Those Who Grieve is one excellent example of biblical counseling for suffering. Ian Jones’ Counsel of Heaven on Earth is a great example of compassionate care for both suffering and sin. My own work, Spiritual Friends equips readers with twenty-two biblical counseling relational competencies for helping those who are suffering and sinning to move toward growth in grace.

    The Rest of the Story

    Be sure to join us for Part II when I share top trends 5-1 related to biblical counseling from 2000-2009.

    Join the Conversation

    What top trends would you add to this list?

    What individuals, groups, churches, and books would you add to trends 10-6?

  • SOUL-u-tion-Focused Ministry

    Posted on December 12th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety

     

    Part 24: SOUL-u-tion-Focused Ministry

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, visit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23.  

     

    Big Idea: Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. We need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    SOUL-u-tion Focused Biblical Counseling

     

    The Apostle Paul’s solution to anxiety is not simply to exhort, “Stop being anxious!”

     

    In fact, Paul is not solution-focused. He’s SOUL-u-tion focused!

     

    True biblical counseling is soul-to-soul counseling. True victory over anxiety, worry, fear, stress, panic, and phobia only occurs in the context of relationship.

     

    We discover this biblical reality in the larger context of Philippians 4:6-7.

     

    Relational Healing for Victory Over Anxiety

     

    Biblical counseling sometimes is accused of the stereotype of, “Take two verses and call me in the morning.” Someone struggles with anxiety and they’re prescribed Philippians 4:6-7.

     

    Scripture is totally sufficient. It is not a lucky charm.

     

    Scripture is totally relevant. It is not applied out of context—neither out of the person’s life context, nor out of the scriptural context.

     

    We’ve been applying the sufficiency and relevancy of Philippians 4:6-7 for conquering anxiety when anxiety attacks. But certainly not in a “take two verses” mentality.

     

    So let’s travel back a bit in the scriptural context of Philippians and let’s notice some relational prescriptions for healing anxiety.

     

    *Therefore my brothers (4:1)

    *You whom I love and long for (4:1)

    *Stand firm in the Lord, dear friends (4:1)

    *I plead with Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other (4:2)

    *Loyal friends, help these women who have contended at my side (4:3)

    *Along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers (4:3)

     

    It Takes a Community

     

    Paul lives and ministers soul-to-soul with brothers whom he loves and longs for. Is that how we minister, or do we minister arms-length, giving one another spiritual stiff-arms?

     

    Paul’s biblical counsel for victory over anxiety involves standing firm in community. With brothers and sisters in Christ. With dear spiritual friends.

     

    “Loyal friends” (or “yokefellows”) is used only this one time in the Bible. It means united by a relational bond as close as family. It pictures comrades, partners, loyal spiritual friends. A band of brothers. Sisters in the Spirit.

     

    “Fellow workers” is sun athleo: athletes together! Teammates.  

     

    It’s not, “Take two verses and call me in the morning.”

     

    It’s, “Travel with a few safe spiritual friends morning, noon, and night.”

     

    It’s, “Cultivate a band of brothers, a sorority of sisters, a team of spiritual athletes, a family of spiritual friends.”

     

    Victory over anxiety comes in community.

     

    Making It Real

     

    1. How do you minister? Arms-length? Spiritual stiff-arms? Solution-focused? Or soul-to-soul? Loving and longing? SOUL-u-tion-focused?

     

    2. Who are you spiritual athletes together with? Who are your spiritual teammates?

     

    3. Who are you loyal, trustworthy friends with? Do you have a band of spiritual brothers? A sorority of spiritual sisters?

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    What sort of spiritual conversations can spiritual brothers and sisters engage in to experience joint victory over anxiety? We’ll find out next time.

     

    Join the Journey

     

    How can biblical ministry move from solution-focused to SOUL-u-tion-focused?

  • A Thanksgiving Reminder from a Hero of Black Church History

    Posted on November 25th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    A Thanksgiving Reminder from a Hero of Black Church History

     

    Absalom Jones was born in slavery on November 6, 1746, in Sussex, Delaware. At age sixteen he moved to Philadelphia, and by age thirty-eight he was able to purchase his freedom. Along with Richard Allen, he became a lay preacher for the African American members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1794, he was ordained a deacon in the African Episcopal Church, and in 1804 he was ordained a priest.

     

    Everyday Is Thanksgiving Day

     

    The Rev. Jones teaches us that everyday can be Thanksgiving Day.

     

    On January 1, 1808, in Philadelphia’s St. Thomas’s African Episcopal Church, Rev. Jones preached a message entitled “A Thanksgiving Sermon: On Account of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade.” The sermon parallels American slavery, the bondage of the Jews in Egypt, and God’s personal and powerful Exodus rescue of his people.

     

    Rev. Jones begins his message by reading Exodus 3:7-8,

     

    “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.”

     

    Commenting on this passage, Rev. Jones first highlights God’s sustaining care for His people. He then relates the historical Exodus narrative to current African American life on the basis of God’s unchanging nature.

     

    “The history of the world shows us, that the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage, is not the only instance, in which it has pleased God to appear in behalf of oppressed and distressed nations, as the deliverer of the innocent, and of those who call upon his name. He is as unchangeable in his nature and character, as He is in His wisdom and power. The great and blessed event, which we have this day met to celebrate, is a striking proof, that the God of heaven and earth is the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”

     

    He Has Seen: Paying Attention to the Earthly Story of Suffering

     

    Rev. Jones next shows that God has been watching every event of their earthly story. “He has seen the affliction of our countrymen, with an eye of pity.”

     

    To emphasize how important it is to pay attention to the earthly story, Rev. Jones presents an outline of African American history: capture, middle passage, auction block sale, enslavement, separation from family, work from sunup to sundown, deprivation of food, clothing, and shelter, torture of the body, and withholding of religion from the soul.

     

    Rev. Jones prefaces each point with the repeated phrase concerning God, “He has seen.” Thirteen times. Can you hear it? Feel it? Imagine it? Place yourself in the congregation.

     

    “He has seen.” “Oh, yeah!” “He has seen.” “Preach it!” “He has seen.” “Come on!” “He has seen.” “Glory!” “He has seen.” “Yes, he has!” “He has seen.” Clapping. “He has seen.” Standing. “He has seen.” Swaying. “He has seen.” Hands raised. “He has seen.” Shouting. “He has seen.” “Amen!” “He has seen.” Tears streaming. “He has seen.” Kneeling.    

     

    He Has Heard: Paying Attention to the Heavenly Story

     

    He has not only seen; He has also heard. Rev. Jones preaches:

     

    “Inhuman wretches! though You have been deaf to their cries and shrieks, they have been heard in Heaven. The ears of Jehovah have been constantly open to them. He has heard the prayers that have ascended from the hearts of his people; and he has, as in the case of his ancient and chosen people the Jews, come down to deliver our suffering countrymen from the hands of the oppressors.”

     

    The suffering Israelites and the suffering African Americans are one people of God.

     

    Four times Pastor Jones repeats the phrase, “He came down.” Healing hope. God sustains and he saves. He climbs in the casket and He rolls the stone away leaving an empty tomb. He sees, and He comes down.

     

    Thanksgiving: From Our Lips and In Our Lives

     

    What worship response is appropriate? Celebrate the empty tomb!

     

    “O! let us give thanks unto the Lord: let us call upon his name, and make known his deeds among the people. Let us sing psalms unto him and talk of all his wondrous works.”

     

    What ministry response is appropriate? Work to extend justice and freedom.

     

    “Let us unite, with our thanksgiving, prayer to Almighty God, for the completion of his begun goodness to our brethren in Africa.”

     

    Liberation starts with spiritual freedom from sin through Christ. It continues with personal freedom from slavery. However, it is never finished until there is universal freedom from the slavery of sin and the sin of slavery.

     

  • 7 Biblical Truths That Must Shape Life and Ministry

    Posted on November 11th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    7 Biblical Truths That Must Shape Life and Ministry 

    In our post-modern generation shaped by relativism, even the Church is filled with differing views on the largest issues of life and ministry. 

    The question that defines us more than any other is: 

    “Upon what do we base our life and ministry?”  

    Here are seven truths that must shape the way we see life and ministry. I call them: 

    Life’s Seven Ultimate Questions and Answers.  

    They teach us what makes biblical ministry truly biblical.  

    1. Question 1: “What is truth? Where do I find answers?” 

    Answer 1—The Word: “God’s Word is sufficient, authoritative, profound, and relevant.” 

    All that we need for life and godliness we find in Scripture (the written Word). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (the Living Word). We live and breathe every nano-second not by bread alone but by the Word of God. Therefore, in life and ministry every question is ultimately a God-question and every answer is fundamentally a God-answer. 

    2. Question 2: “Who is God?” 

    Answer 2—The Creator: “God is Trinitarian.” 

    God is not the “alone with the alone.” The God of the Universe is, always has been, and always will be Three-in-One, communitarian, Trinitarian. Before God created, He related. Thus God created us not out of need but graciously from the overflow of infinite Trinitarian fellowship. Reality is relational because God is Trinitarian. Therefore, in life and ministry our purpose is to glorify God as we combine Scripture and soul, truth and love. 

    3. Question 3: “Who am I”? 

    Answer 3—Creation: “We are created with dignity by God in the image of Christ.” 

    I am not an accident. I am fearfully and wonderfully made with the purpose of worshipful fellowship with the God of the universe and sacrificial one-another fellowship with my fellow human beings. Together we are to enjoy God by glorifying Him forever as we fulfill our calling as stewards of His universe. Therefore, in life and ministry our goal is to reflect increasingly the inner life of Christ. 

    4. Question 4: “What went wrong?” 

    Answer 4—The Fall: “We sinfully and foolishly choose god-substitutes over God.” 

    The only explanation for sin and suffering is humanity’s fall into rebellion initiated by Adam and Eve and continued to this day by every person who ever lived. We sinfully forsake and attempt to replace God because we have lost our awe of God and chosen to love false gods. Therefore, in life and ministry we must recognize and confess that our core problem is spiritual adultery. 

    5. Question 5: “Can we change? How do people change?” 

    Answer 5—Redemption: “We must apply our complete salvation to our daily sanctification.” 

    Our only hope for change is our acceptance by faith of God’s grace in Christ. Those who are new creations in Christ can change because they have already been changed. Justification (our new pardon), reconciliation (our new peace), regeneration (our new purity), and redemption (our new power) provide the four-fold basis for daily growth into the image of Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry our identity in Christ is monumental. 

    6. Question 6—“Where am I headed? What is my destiny?” 

    Answer 6—Glorification: “Heaven is my final home.” 

    For those who enter into eternal relationship with God in Christ, our destiny is endless relationship and purpose—sacred communion within God’s holy and happy family. The biblical answer to the question of ultimate destiny ought to impact drastically how we live today—our future destiny impacts our present reality. Therefore, in life and ministry, reading the end of the story makes all the difference in how we respond to present suffering and how we overcome besetting sins. 

    7. Question 7—“Can I help? How can I help?” 

    Answer 7—Sanctification/Ministry: “We dispense God’s cure for the soul—grace.” 

    Grace is God’s prescription for our disgrace—the disgrace of sin and the disgrace of suffering. Grace is God’s medicine of choice for our sinful and suffering world. God calls us to be dispensers of His grace which sustains and heals us in our suffering, which reconciles and guides us in our sin, and which moves us toward sanctification in Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry we must be dispensers of grace. 

     

  • Facing the Giants

    Posted on November 5th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 11:

    What’s Our Goal?

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1: http://bit.ly/aHstk, Part 2:  http://bit.ly/20R01P, Part 3: http://bit.ly/HAoxI, Part 4: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF, Part 5: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt, Part 6: http://bit.ly/19vCXx, Part 7: http://bit.ly/21wPLg, Part 8: http://bit.ly/m50On, Part 9: http://bit.ly/4vhNIt, part 10: http://bit.ly/1ClPr4.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    What’s Our Goal?

     

    If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, what’s our goal?

     

    You shout, “To get rid of the anxiety!”

     

    Well, that’s a great desire. It certainly is an acceptable prayer. “Lord, if it be Thy will, remove all feelings and experiences of anxiety.”

     

    The problem is, this side of heaven, not all feelings are “healed,” not all negative emotional experiences are “wiped away.” It’s on the other side of heaven that we have no more tears, sorrow, pain, or suffering.

     

    There’s no guarantee that medication will eliminate anxiety. There’s no promise that talk therapy will remove all feelings of fear. There’s no pledge that biblical counseling or scriptural meditation will eliminate every negative emotion.

     

    When anxiety is totally eliminated, that’s a special grace of God for which everyone gives thanks. But that’s not the everyday result nor should it be our ultimate goal.

     

    Peace in the Midst and Godly Living All the Time

     

    Our goal is peace that passes understanding. Peace that empowers us to live and love like Christ even if we still feel anxious.

     

    Even if we still have fear, our goal is to face our fears in and through Christ for God’s glory and the good of others.

     

    We can and often should change how we respond to our emotions, what we do with our emotions, and how we manage our moods.

     

    We can change the choices we make as a result of the feelings we have. We can address the motivations of our hearts.

     

    We can renew our minds and change our thinking about our feelings, about God, about ourselves, and about others.

     

    We can return to a focus on loving God and others, regardless of our feelings.

     

    All of those are good, godly goals—much better goals than changing or eliminating feelings of anxiety.

     

    Nothing is more courageous than doing the right thing even when we’re terrified.

     

    Nothing is more godly than facing our fears even when our fears are not eliminated.

  • When Life Is Undependable…

    Posted on November 4th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 10:

    God Is Dependable Even When Life Is Undependable

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1: http://bit.ly/aHstk, Part 2:  http://bit.ly/20R01P, Part 3: http://bit.ly/HAoxI, Part 4: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF, Part 5: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt, Part 6: http://bit.ly/19vCXx, Part 7: http://bit.ly/21wPLg, Part 8: http://bit.ly/m50On, Part 9: http://bit.ly/4vhNIt.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    God Is Dependable

     

    What message does someone struggling with anxiety need?

     

    When life is bad, we need to remember that God is good—all the time. And when life is undependable, we need to know that God is dependable—all the time.

     

    Life can feel like it is out of control, capricious. Stuff seems to happen for no reason and with little or no warning.

     

    When cares overwhelm, we need to remember that we can cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. We can depend on Christ’s care because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever—He is eternally dependable.

     

    Listening to Sad Stories

     

    Helping one another to embrace our dependably caring God is the ultimate goal. However, that does not necessarily mean that our first response is to spout verses about trust.

     

    Before we race in telling others about God’s story, we need to earn the right to speak by listening to our friend’s story.

     

    People will hear us as we talk about God’s story of healing only if we have been compassionately listening to them talk about their story of hurting.

     

    It’s excruciating to feel enslaved to fear. It’s confusing and even maddening to have something so good (that “vigilance” that we spoke of in Parts 1-8) turn so harmful.

     

    As a spiritual friend, we want to empathize with our friend who is struggling with anxiety. We want to compassionately identify with them in their story of life that feels so out of control.

     

    If you’ve never experienced panic or phobia, if you’ve never been overwhelmed by nebulous anxiety, if life for you means charging ahead, then you will need to prayerfully ask God to enable you to connect with and comfort those who feel like “anxiety” is staffed on their forehead.

     

    Can you listen to a friend’s hurt without compulsively needing to immediately fix your friend? Or, are you afraid of their fear? Anxious about their anxiety?

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    What do you listen for? How do you respond to what you hear? We’ll address those vital questions next time.

  • Our GPS for Anxiety

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 9:

    God’s Prescription for Victory Over Anxiety

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1: http://bit.ly/aHstk, Part 2:  http://bit.ly/20R01P, Part 3: http://bit.ly/HAoxI, Part 4: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF, Part 5: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt, Part 6: http://bit.ly/19vCXx, Part 7: http://bit.ly/21wPLg, Part 8: http://bit.ly/m50On.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    God’s Prescription

     

    In parts 1-8, we’ve been good medical students of the soul. Here’s a one paragraph summary of what we’ve learned.

     

    Anxiety is the fallen counterpart to God’s original design for the soul. God created us with vigilance—the ability to respond to threat with creative energy that protects others and depends upon God’s protection. Anxiety is our fear response (stuck vigilance) to threat with destructive energy that protects self through flight and/or fight behavior that fails to depend upon God or protect others.

     

    God’s Care and Cure: Our GPS

     

    How do we respond to destructive anxiety? How do we minister to someone battling stuck vigilance that seems to leave them in a perpetual state of alarm?

     

    Ultimately, the “cure” for anxiety involves embracing the reality that God is dependable even when life is undependable.

     

    However, in helping others, we can’t rush in with our answers until we’ve patiently heard their questions. We must enter souls before we direct souls. We must express God’s care before we offer God’s cure.

     

    What’s involved in that? Today I share an overview. Consider it our GPS: God’s Principles from Scripture.

     

    GPS # 1: Empathy—“It’s Terrifying to Experience Anxiety”

     

    It means compassionately identify with people experiencing overwhelming fear. Can you sense how frightening it is to experience anxiety? Can you empathize with and embrace your spiritual friend’s trembling body and anxious heart?

     

    We’ll learn how together.

     

    GPS # 2: Encouragement—“It’s Possible to Experience Peace Even When You Feel Worried”

     

    Over the course of several blog posts we’ll interact about the empathy process. Of course, we don’t want to stop there. People do want to change. They do want peace.

     

    So we’ll also explore how to move from anxiety to shalom—peace in a frightening, fallen world.

     

    Having embraced our spiritual friend through empathy, we’ll learn how to encourage one another to embrace Christ. What difference does it make that Christ never leaves us or forsakes us?

     

    We’ll find out.

     

    GPS # 3: Exposure—“It’s Horrible to Self-Protect”

     

    If you watch the show “Monk” then you know that Detective Adrian Monk struggles with OCD and a multitude of phobias. He has a very sweet assistant, Natalie. As much as I love the show and like the character Monk, it drives me crazy the way he mistreats Natalie by only thinking of himself. Monk’s friends and therapist enable him (in the bad sense of that word) by never or rarely confronting him with the self-centered side of his anxiety.

     

    Yes, we need to empathize and encourage.

     

    However, since anxiety includes self-protection rather than trusting God’s protection and protecting others, we also need to expose sinful self-protection. And, we need to expose God’s forgiving grace and His accepting heart.

     

    We’ll learn how.

     

    GPS # 4—Empowerment—“It’s Supernatural to Trust and Defend”

     

    Every once in awhile Detective Adrian Monk does something brave, something that protects Natalie or his other friends and co-workers. It seems almost miraculous. And, really it is. It is not natural for any of us to care about others. It is supernatural.

     

    How does someone who is terrified of life begin to trust God and defend others? How do they, how do we, tap into Christ’s resurrection power to overpower fear with faith, hope, love, and peace?

     

    Stick with us as we’ll learn how.

     

  • The Anatomy of Anxiety Part 8: Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

    Posted on October 27th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 8:

    Anxiety, Worry, Fear, and Phobia—Oh My!

     

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt. For part six, please go here: http://bit.ly/19vCXx. For part seven, please visit: http://bit.ly/21wPLg.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     

    What Anxiety Feels Like

     

    We use a host of terms for “anxiety.” Four of the most common are anxiety, worry, fear, and phobia.

     

    Though these are distinct and can be contrasted, we can also identify common threads woven throughout each of these terms. They consist of overlapping, similar experiences.

     

    The following are actual ways that people have described to me their experiences of anxiety, worry, fear, and phobia.

     

    *I’m constantly turned in upon myself and tuned in only to myself.

     

    “I’m consistently reflecting on myself and overly concerned with my life in a way that feels self-centered, obsessive, out of control, and abnormal.”

     

    *I’m hyper-vigilant in my response to threat and I always have a sense of foreboding.

     

    “I feel like something bad is going to happen that I can’t control or handle.”

     

    *My mind gets stuck in a state of alertness and preparation for danger, real or imagined.

     

    “I can’t seem to stop preparing for the worst.”

     

    *My fear is my survival system, like an alarm clock intended to startle me awake. But the button is stuck and the alarm won’t stop!

     

    “It’s like the old Lost in Space show with the Robot always screaming, ‘Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!’”

     

    *Anxiety is my present experience of a scary future.

     

    “I feel like the cowardly lion, afraid of his own shadow, and like all the Oz characters always chanting, ‘Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh my!’”

     

    *My fear retreats from the threat. Fear cringes.  

     

    “I don’t fight; I flee because I view the danger as bigger than my resources.”

     

    *My fear causes distortions. I seem weaker than I am. God seems weak, or uninvolved, or uncaring.

     

    “I’m David against Goliath, but I don’t see God in the scene.”

     

    *I sense a dangerous threat that I can’t control or surmount.

     

    “Life is too hard for me. This situation is too big for me. I’m a child in an adult world.”

     

    *I worry all the time. It’s a distracting care, a consuming thought.

     

    “I get stuck on the step of identifying every possible negative eventuality. I define the problem, but I don’t move on to identifying options, finding solutions, or taking action.”

     

    *I’m in a near constant state of dread or apprehension, usually not even triggered by any specific danger.

     

    “I’m swallowed in panic and confusion about my uncertain future. All I know for sure is that at least one of the potential negative outcomes is sure to occur!”

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Have you “been there, done that?” Do any of these real-life descriptions fit your real life? Or the life of someone you love? Someone you are ministering to?

     

    It’s easy for us, especially if these issues are uncommon to us, to quickly say, “It’s all sin. Just trust God. Be anxious for nothing. Pray.”

     

    Even if all of that advice were always true; it’s still trite.

     

    We change lives with Christ’s changeless truth…not with our trite truisms.

     

    I invite you to return for part nine and beyond as we’ll begin to share realistic biblical principles for overcoming anxiety—at its root, at its core.

     

    Our entire blog series is moving toward the goal of finding God’s sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding care and cure for anxiety.

  • 12 Biblical Portraits of Anxiety

    Posted on October 21st, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 7:

    A Dozen Biblical Portraits of Anxiety

     

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt. For part six, please go here: http://bit.ly/19vCXx.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love?

    Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     

    The Bible Is Relevant

     

    Some people talk about “making the Bible relevant.”

     

    We don’t make the Bible relevant. The Bible is the most relevant book ever written.

     

    In fact, we have to work hard to make the Bible irrelevant. We have to work hard to make the Bible boring.

     

    Other people talk about the sufficiency of the Scriptures. I believe 100% that the Bible is sufficient. However, far too many people fail to link the sufficiency of Scripture with the relevancy of Scripture.

     

    We should never talk about the sufficiency of Scripture without also emphasizing the relevancy of Scripture.

     

    The Relevancy of the Bible and Anxiety

     

    What does all of this have to do with an anatomy of anxiety?

     

    Some people think that the only biblical reference to anxiety is Philippians 4:6. They also tend to act like the only biblical counseling that we need to do for a person struggling with anxiety is to quote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

     

    That’s an amazing verse, but the Bible is not simply a “concordance” on anxiety where we tell people, “take two verses and call me in the morning.”

     

    The Reality of the Bible: The Agony of Anxiety

     

    The Bible presents an amazing array of an anatomy of anxiety. I want to share just a small sampler of those to whet your appetite. These verses and passages realistically depict the agony of anxiety.

     

    The Bible is real and raw. It tells about real people with real problems. It presents real answers from a real God.

     

    One of the myriad beauties of the Bible is it teaches us that we are not alone. Others have suffered like we do now. And others have found victory. This sense of “universality”—that others are in the same boat, encourages us when life beats us down.

     

    A Dozen Biblical Samplers of the Experience of Anxiety

     

    If you are struggling with fear, panic, worry, or anxiety, consider the following samplers as just a few passages you can turn to that depict struggles with fear and anxiety in other godly men and women of the Bible.

     

    *Psalm 27: When fear assaults, David seeks God’s face.

     

    *Psalm 34: Read of David’s fear and broken-heartedness and God’s care and cure.

     

    *Psalm 46: Learn of God’s strength and ever-present help in our trouble and anxieties.

     

    *Psalm 55: David’s thoughts trouble him—ever been there? He is distraught—been there, done that! His heart is in anguish within him; terrors of death assail him. Fear and trembling beset him; horrors overwhelm him. He casts all his cares on Jehovah; He cries out to Jehovah in distress. He pleads for God’s sustaining care.

     

    *Psalm 91: This psalm has been called the 911 Psalm. When you experience terror and foreboding and feel like life is an unavoidable snare and trap, call God’s 911 hotline and find God to be your refuge and shield.

     

    *Psalm 109: David candidly speaks of his wounded heart (109:22). He is poor and needy, shaken and fading away (109:23). Attacked by others, he clings to God.

     

    *Psalm 116: The psalmist is overcome by trouble, afflicted, and dismayed, overly concerned, imprisoned by anguish. Where will rest be found?

     

    *Matthew 6:25-33: Jesus’ teaching on worry and trusting Father’s good heart.

     

    *Matthew 10:26-31: Jesus’ teaching on fear and trusting Father’s affectionate sovereignty.

     

    *John 14:1-31: Jesus’ loving message to His disciples and to us—when our hearts are troubled, when we feel orphaned and all alone, where do we find peace? Do not let your hearts be troubled.

     

    *Philippians 4:1-20: A classic passage on anxiety—but note that it is a passage in the context of a book. It is not simply a verse to quote like waving a magic wand.

     

    *1 Peter 5:5-11: Another classic New Testament passage in a wider context that includes not only casting our care on God who cares, but also discusses vigilance (5:8)—sound familiar?

     

    What About You? What About Your Friend?
     
    If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, panic, worry…don’t simply read these passages. Feel them. Live them. Experience them. Write a personal paraphrase of them. Memorize them. Meditate on them.

     

    If you are helping a spiritual friend who is battling anxiety…don’t simply preach these passages at your friend. Discuss these passages. Interact about them. Dialogue about them. Trialogue about them–you, your spiritual friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend. Have your spiritual friend write a personal paraphrase of the passage.

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    I invite you to return for part eight where we’ll share personal expressions of the agony of anxiety from others who have struggled through it. You are not alone.

     

    Then in part nine and beyond, we’ll explore some causes of anxiety.

     

    All of our discussion is moving toward the goal of finding God’s sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding care and cure for anxiety.